Eleven-year-old Artel stood by the window of his second-floor room in the castle nestled outside Birmingham, England. His gaze was fixed on the delicate mist that hung in the sky, his lips moving softly as he muttered to himself.
Despite his tender age, there was an air of maturity about Artel's countenance that seemed out of place. His face carried a wisdom and gravity that one wouldn't expect from someone so young.
This marked the eleventh year he had seen come and go. Artel Thomas Shelby was his name, a moniker that carried a profound legacy. His great-grandfather was none other than the renowned Tommy Shelby, the illustrious leader of the Razor Party.
Tommy, also known as Thomas, had left an indelible mark on the Shelby lineage, and Artel's second name was a testament to that legacy. It was a tribute that held within it not only familial honor but the collective hopes of the entire Shelby clan.
Their aspiration was clear – that young Artel would tread a path akin to Tommy's. With Tommy's passing, the Razor Party had seen its heyday give way to decline. The once-united Shelby family had splintered and fallen into discord. Artel's grandfather, the youngest son of Tommy, had returned to Birmingham at the helm of a small group. In his hands lay the mantle of leading two bars and a sprawling manor.
The Shelby bloodline coursed with restive fervor. They were inherently tied to a life of ruthless gang affiliation, a far cry from conventional business tycoons. Artel's grandfather had seized the opportunity presented by the Shelby name to establish the Little Razor Party within Birmingham's underworld. This faction had grown to encompass numerous members and gained considerable repute.
Artel's father, Freddie, was a man of even greater prowess. Upon ascending to the role of Shelby family head, he dared to challenge the status quo, briefly reigning as the undisputed kingpin of Birmingham's underground. Alas, Freddie's methods ventured into treacherous territory, prompting rebellion from his subordinates and official intervention.
Though incarcerated, Freddie's influence stretched even behind bars. Despite the myriad gangs vying for control in Birmingham's underworld, many still retained their reverence for the Shelby family. The Little Razor Party remained a force to be reckoned with, laying claim to two thriving neighborhoods in the heart of the city, all while shrouding their activities in an array of legitimate and shadowy enterprises.
The Shelby legacy extended beyond the criminal domain, boasting an extensive business portfolio. It included an array of five bars, two restaurants, a sprawling shopping emporium, factories nestled in the suburbs, and a sprawling 120-hectare winery.
And of course, one mustn't overlook the family's ancestral home, the very manor where they currently resided, along with a grand castle-like garden estate on the outskirts of London.
Yet, despite this affluence, the modern Shelbys knew they paled in comparison to Tommy's era. The family's current prosperity was indebted to the economic and industrial advancements of the times, a reality that didn't evoke pride.
In Tommy's era, the Shelby name had commanded respect and reverence on a grand scale, spreading its influence across England and even beyond. The Razor Party had transcended local borders, becoming internationally renowned. This lofty heritage bore upon every member of the family, and none felt its weight more acutely than Artel, the sole heir of the line.
"Razor Party... Tommy Shelby..." Artel's voice was a mere whisper as he gazed at the stars above. The transition into this life hadn't dulled his awareness of the monumental expectations he carried.
Despite his unique circumstances, Artel's education hadn't prepared him for the task of revitalizing a legacy akin to that of a mafia family. Yet, his innate insights, gleaned from a previous life, gifted him with a perspective beyond his years. His ability to maintain composure in the face of challenges was a marvel to the family that pinned its hopes on him.
He wished, however, that he could harness a latent power within him, a power that only manifested during times of emotional turmoil. This power had tragically surfaced during a fateful encounter at a restaurant three years prior, resulting in his mother's demise. The shock of the event had triggered a release of energy, shattering glass and transforming cutlery into deadly projectiles.
The gunmen were vanquished, but Artel's mother was lost forever. In the years since, he had struggled to control this mysterious force. The extent and limitations of this power remained elusive, as did the means to wield it effectively.
His musings were abruptly interrupted by a thudding sound outside the window, akin to someone rapping on glass. Artel's face tightened with vigilance as he withdrew a pistol from a drawer nearby.
"Who's there?" he demanded, his tone laced with caution. The circumstances hardly warranted wind-induced noises on the second story of the castle.
Then, a peculiar sound reached his ears—an owl's call. This revelation prompted a quirk of surprise on his features. Why would an owl be visiting at this hour? Was it a coded signal from a rival gang or a message from a distant relative?
Remaining in the shadows, Artel shifted his position, using the wall for cover. He quickly drew aside the curtain, confirming the presence of a gray-brown owl fluttering at the window. Incredibly, the creature held a letter in its beak.
A flutter of curiosity intermingled with his caution. Could this be some intricate ploy by rival factions or even a move orchestrated by a faction within his own family? Nonetheless, the owl appeared more a messenger than a threat. His curiosity won over, he unlatched the window, allowing the avian emissary to enter.
A soft, enigmatic call echoed through the room as the owl performed a graceful flight before landing upon Artel's table. Meanwhile, the letter, as if guided by an unseen hand, drifted and landed directly within his grasp.
The envelope bore no stamp, its surface embellished with words penned in an unusual emerald-green ink. It bore a specific location – West Midlands, Shelby Manor on the outskirts of Birmingham, the first room to the left on the second floor of the central castle – a space designated for none other than Mr. Artel Thomas Shelby.